Magic Ties Together
Ira has one eye, a back-alley accuracy charm, and a policy of taking what he can get.
Lajos has a sword, a stoic façade that crumbles quickly under pressure, and a mysterious past.
When a routine monster attack leads to the men being magically bound together, unable to part without being violently ill, Ira is horrified. Worse, the link means they can sense each other's every emotion. And as time goes on, Ira starts to wonder which emotions are truly his, and which are just a result of the magic...
Deep in the bowels of the pile they called a world, Ira lay on the rafters of an ancient hall clearly made for giants and stared down with bow at the ready. The tiles of the hall floor were 444 by 77. This job may have been his ticket out of the war-wrecked capital, but it could be more boring than hell. Ira contemplated knocking off work early.
The sound of footsteps scratched that idea. He rolled to turn towards his boss. “Trying to sneak up on me? I’m half-blind, Kalenka, not deaf.”
“Just checking that you’re not goofing off.” Kalenka stuck one foot in his face. It was tiny, like the front paw of a cat, with the same little beans. It was also quite dirty. Ira smacked it away. In all his time working for them, Ira had never seen any of the Hox race wear shoes. “Report of weird noise here. Came to look.”
“Yeah, there was a rumbling. Thought that was your guys.” Shit, was he supposed to have paid attention to that? Weird noises rumbled through the walls all the time. He’d started blocking them out to stave off claustrophobia. There were only so many times a person could panic about a cave-in without going nuts when they were this deep.
Kalenka was in charge down here, her mission to investigate every weird corridor she could find, and usually that meant workers clearing a few tons of rubble from each room. “Not me. No one this side of ruins but you today.” She sat on the edge of the railing, feet swinging into the space below. “Said so at breakfast. Pay attention.”
Well damn. Ira rolled to sit. “I guess I’d better actually investigate what the—”
He was cut off by a crash. And this time when he looked down into the hall, it wasn’t empty.
Throm and Wodge, two brothers Ira unfortunately knew well, ran into the corridor, arms flailing in a way rather dangerous for a pair carrying swords.
“I thought you said no one was supposed to be down there.” Ira got into position to shoot whatever they were running from.
Kalenka, however, did not budge. “None of you listen at breakfast meetings.”
The brothers were below Ira’s spot when what they were running from turned the corner and came into Ira’s view.
A Blemyae. Fantastic. Twice as tall as a human man, their head located in the center of their massive chest and always looking for a fresh meal.
The ruins were far from the surface, but the world was like a stack of pancakes filled with holes. Once you left the massive plane at the top, tunnels were the main source of access from place to place, subterranean or not. These ruins seemed to be connected to an abnormally high number of tunnels. Creatures from higher areas tumbled down often, hungry and disoriented. That was why Ira had a job.
Throm turned to face the thing as it caught up. Panic ruined his swing, and the Blemyae’s tree-trunk arm caught him in the stomach, flinging him into a wall.
Great, Ira would have to deal with this on his own. He readied an arrow, planning his moves. Arrows would only do so much against Blemyae hide—
Ira jerked his bow back as a man rushed in front of his shot. Drab but for the bright yellow of his hair that easily identified him, Lajos struck the Blemyae in the leg with his sword. The attack drew blood—and the monster’s attention.
Ah, someone competent had bothered to show up.
Ira had enjoyed limited interaction with Lajos as yet, and word was he was polite but not necessarily friendly. Aloof, distant, boring. But he did his job.
Lajos did not flinch as one of Ira’s arrows shot past his head and into the knee of the Blemyae. He only took the opportunity of the monster’s pain to strike again, slashing along the knee’s tendon.
Lajos’s blade was black, flattened but for the edges. Hox weaponry, but made for the size of a human. Ira knew they made good arrow bolts, but he had never tried their blades. It looked like it cut Blemyae well enough.
Taking this distraction with no thanks, Throm and Wodge hightailed it out of there. Ha, they couldn’t have been that injured if they could run like that.
Ira shot another arrow into the cut. Blemyae arteries were huge sausage-like things, big enough Ira could make them out even this distance, and the gush of blood told him he had hit true.
Not fast enough to avoid the splatter, Lajos was able to jump to avoid the falling titan.
Ira smirked as he moved to take aim at the beast’s eyes, and it seemed Lajos had the same thought. Ira jerked his aim away from the right eye and to the left as Lajos’s blade made such a shot overkill.
Unfortunately, with Blemyae, death was not instantaneous. The limbs could still function on their own for minutes after, and the Blemyae’s death throws were a wild flailing thing. And though Lajos was agile, he was not, it seemed, perfect. An elbow to the stomach flung him against the wall, and it did not seem to Ira he would be able to move in time to avoid the next blow.
Damnit, Ira thought as he grabbed at the pack on his belt. There was only so much a regular arrow could do against such large a mass.
He tossed the ball and it hit at just the correct moment, exploding at the right distances from the Blemyae’s arm that it did not also take out Lajos’s handsome face.
Ah, he was going to need a good wash, though. Ira couldn’t help but chuckle as he climbed down to the ground floor. Messy, but they had done the job.
He was retrieving his second arrow when he heard Lajos behind him. “Why did you wait so late to use the explosive?”
“Excuse me?” Ira wiped the gore from the arrow and filed it away with a frown. Lajos was complaining about what now? Ira saving his ass? “Would you have preferred I let that Blemyae smack you into mush against the wall?”